Brother Martin ssf reports on the latest meeting Anglican traditional religious in Oxford
A somewhat motley band of monks and nuns met for the annual gathering of RooT at St Stephen’s House, Oxford, in September (RooT is an acronym for ‘religious of orthodox tradition’). Between them, the habits that they wore included most of the colours of the rainbow (though not quite all!) and a wide range of ages was represented.
They came in order to share their insights on the dificulties that face Anglicans of traditional faith at this critical time, and with reference to the way in which these problems afect us who are vowed to the Religious Life. It was not however a time for sadness and lament, despite the uncertain future. It was a happy gathering, and there was much joy and laughter. Old friendships were renewed, and new friendships made. Conversation at mealtimes was great fun, though breakfast was taken in silence in accordance with monastic custom. The daily round of Mass and the Divine Ofice was duly observed, and we even had a choir practice.
The common quest for unity was met by exploring the situation as seen through the eyes of both a leading Roman Catholic and a Russian Orthodox nun, for the programme included talks by Fr Aidan Nichols op and Sister Nadejda, and there was much lively discussion. It was deeply disturbing to hear from the Sister about the sad state of the Church in Russia, where government control stifles its freedom.
Predominant among the themes of the conference was the issue of women bishops. There was real disappointment that neither the Rochester Report nor Consecrated Women? had been taken seriously by the General Synod, and there was a good deal of fear as to the way in which communities would be afected.
The Bishops of Fulham and Ebbsfleet,
and Bishop David Thomas from the Church in Wales, generously shared their wisdom with us, and they helped to steer us through the thicket and to look to the future. But it is still too early to map out a clear way forward for religious communities.
It appears that few of our Anglican monastic orders are of one mind on the issues involved, and there is growing tension as we try to discover a way in which an individual member can act in conscience when the remainder of the community takes an unacceptable line. The problem is, of course, heightened by the fact that none of us want to part company with the rest of the community to which we belong, not only because of our religious vows but also because our respective communities have become the families which we dearly love. The bonds of afection are such that few (if any) of us could countenance the possibility of transferring our allegiance elsewhere.
There remains a great deal of work still to be done, but we thank God for RooT because it provides the forum in which these thorny issues can be discussed, and it also provides a framework of mutual support for those who feel isolated and marginalized.